Barb McGrath 0:02
Today’s guest is this cat twin girl through and through. Born and raised here. She completed medical school in 1983 with distinction and is a family physician and child abuse consultant in Regina. Her training and experience in the field of child abuse spans over 30 years and she has been instrumental in creating the first and only child maltreatment team in Saskatchewan. Although this work is very difficult, even I can say after having just met her that she continues day in and day out with a very positive attitude. Dr. Sharon, libel, welcome. Thank you. Thank you for being with me here today. I can see you’re at the office.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 0:49
Yeah, we have electronic
I would be less instrumental than more good at taking orders from the people who were good at organizing and setting things up. What I have is longevity not. Yeah.
Barb McGrath 1:07
Excellent. Well, Sharon, tell us a little bit about your work. It sounds like a very interesting body of work. And I would have to say emotionally exhausting body of work. So just tell us a little bit about it.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 1:19
Well, as a family physician, we covered the gamut, right? birth to death and beyond. For the survivors. I’m with the Child and Family Medical Services team, which is I guess, our technical name cfms. We are the medical arm of multidisciplinary teams. So police, city, RCMP, social services, and the medical team all work together when there is a suspected neglect, abuse, maltreatment of some sort, we would be the ones doing the physical exam handling the basic medical needs. And the difference for us from just being the normal physician seeing the child would be being able to give an opinion as to causation of injuries or an opinion as to whether history
Barb McGrath 2:24
Matches findings. Right, exactly. There’s sort of that first instance versus there’s been a history of instances. So this is probably a question I don’t want the answer to but I’m still going to ask it. What is the prevalence of child abuse in our province,
Dr. Sharon Leibel 2:38
Far lower than reported? In our scene seen the tip of an iceberg? Right, we are seeing the children who a neighbor or a family member or the school often the school or the daycare. have concerns.
Barb McGrath 3:00
Dr. Sharon Leibel 3:02
What we are lacking in the last three months? Is that oversight those always on the children, no school, no daycare, relatives not mingling. So we’re actually terrified about what has been going on over the last three months. Yeah. I know from some of the news as well as child abuse forums that the poor police who monitor the internet, okay. Have seen because they’re monitoring chat rooms, etc. They have seen PDF files exalting with CLI that Oh,
Barb McGrath 3:51
Because there’s so much unwatered Yeah. One of my, one of my past guests was JoAnn Dussel, from paths. And so as an association, they support domestic violence, homes and things like that, throughout the province. And Joanne talked about the prevalence in our interview and like I was shocked I was actually speechless at one point in time I’m gonna keep talking because I was like, What? And, and that’s a sentiment that I have expressed many times throughout this pandemic is that’s what scares me is these families who, who don’t have the supports that they need right now. Kids don’t have an outlet, you don’t have somewhere to go and say I need help. They’re not allowed to leave the house. Now it’s gotten better in the last few weeks but still not enough so they’re not back in a classroom or a daycare.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 4:44
My sister one of my sisters is an elementary school teacher and she she has been heartbroken because she said for a percentage of our children. School is the safe place
Barb McGrath 4:57
Dr. Sharon Leibel 5:00
There are More than one organization from mobile crisis services to Ministry of Social Services to the children’s advocate who have expressed a lot of concerns about this. And the catchup work we’re going to have to do as far as the incidents goes, much like when we’re talking about the incidents of domestic violence, there’s such a range. Children who were neglected, is child abuse, children who are emotionally denigrated, just like a spouse who is emotionally denigrated his child abuse. Children in a home, someone is failing to provide the necessities of life. And that could be as simple as three meals a day or children whose asthma is poorly controlled, because the inhalers are not being purchased. Right now, there are a lot of families absolutely, trying to do their absolute best and struggling there to get reported, because their kids don’t look as well dressed their kids don’t. And these are loving families who are doing a fabulous job of giving safety and security to their children. So nice part of my job is when we could say this is a good family, this kids fine. They may look a little different, maybe secondhand, not new. And guess what? One bruise on a child of active ambulatory age is
Barb McGrath 6:43
Pretty normal. Except one, I won’t like 25.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 6:49
You wouldn’t believe how many kids I have seen because someone god bless them was concerned with a low knowledge base.
Barb McGrath 6:56
See, I would worry more if my kids didn’t have bruises because they’re constantly my kids are preteens they’re constantly banged up. And when they’re not, it means they’re sitting on the couch watching TV
Dr. Sharon Leibel 7:07
I have seen a whole lot of kids who have here bruises than I do. And that’s simply an uncoordinated adult, let alone a moving five year old. Exactly. But another patient of mine who’s a teacher, and a very conscientious and concerned person said what the last three months has done is widened the inequity gap between the social classes and between the kids we have, we have set children who were struggling way back. And I don’t know what the educational system has in mind. Like we could provide summer school without singling out children. You could make it a school camp thing. And look, you don’t have to find daycare, we we will teach your kids and entertain them that would be fabulous. Exactly. And a lot of schools did the best they they set up, you know programs, you could get a loaner laptop so that your child could do their classes and stuff. But we knew that there would be problems with that. There were more computers offered then were taken up despite there being a lot of kids who really could use their work computers that were loaned out. And yet the work, there was no contact, that work was not done and nothing happens. So kids who need outside resources in place. Yeah,
Barb McGrath 8:44
Yeah. And that’s the unfortunate thing about everything that has happened over the last few months is those who needed help, most couldn’t get it. Those who maybe wanted help, still had the ability in one way, shape or form to likely get it. And so if you were struggling, you know, you’d pick up the phone, you’d call your, you know, Doctor, you’d call someone. And I think I agree with you that inequity gap has gotten much larger. So what is it cheering about this type of work that called you? I can’t imagine in 1983 when you graduated, you were like, Oh, I’m going to help kids that are being abused, like, or maybe it was like, How
Dr. Sharon Leibel 9:24
Did this happen? No. It’s like most things in life, you’ll fall into it. Um, I actually graduated and worked three years emerged before I went to a family practice. Went into family practice, same time we got married. Somebody came up to me and said, I have been working in the initial old team we had which was a pediatrician, a hospital, pediatric social worker and a family physician. She said I’ve been doing it for two years, and I feel that I need a break and it’s Your turn, and I’m Catholic, and you’re really good at like, Oh, well, then it must be my turn. We can guilt ourselves into anything. So I did that for two years where just a pediatrician and I in a social worker would see children. And a small number of children were being identified. So the numbers were way down. And sort of the second year I was doing that I was pregnant with my first child, and apparently a raging ball of psychotic hormones. Why? Because the police officers said, Yeah, you are actually allowed to kill or castrate anyone. Maybe you should take a break. Jesus was I allowed to sit down there anyway. Um, so I took, I told them, I need to take a break. And then I had my children 16 months apart. So I knocked out two, at which point a wonderful family physician emerged physician from who was moving here from Vancouver, I came and said, Look, in Vancouver, we have this multidisciplinary team where everything is linked together. And it was actually Christine Wasik, who sort of just went out and found the bodies and said, Look, we have to educate ourselves and we’ll take turns on calls and one personal time, and we will form these links with the police. So us reaching out to the police actually helped them gradually move towards the region and children’s Justice Center is one of the first police social services so there are two police officers working with one Social Work partner, they are in a standalone building, separate from the police station. And we have worked hand in hand with them now for I’m really bad at this 26 for a while was for a long time.
Barb McGrath 12:19
There we go.And we are still
Dr. Sharon Leibel 12:24
In some ways they had of much larger provinces than we are. May I add Saskatoon, after all these years of us begging and pleading still does not have a multidisciplinary Children’s Advocacy. Oh, they don’t know they do so. Okay. So that’s interesting to me because we of course, nowadays we think about healthcare as a provincial because we have the SAS Health Authority into everything is provincial, but then obviously, it’s all that means is we get phone calls from far up north as for advice, because if they fall in Saskatoon, they are still sort of directed to us. Right. And we plan for years has been that when they have the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, they will set up a program. There was one of the pediatric residents who came through Regina who was wonderful and spent a lot of time with us. And he has gone off to Toronto sick kids and is doing his subspecialty in child maltreatment. Okay, and then William will be coming to Saskatoon and hopefully helping them set up a program.
And we then we’ll see how we can manage to support each other we’re offering. We have an Educational Fund. After the first 10 years of doing this, where we pay for our own education. The Health District then set up an education funds so that we could go to the major conferences in the States and Canada and stay up to date. And so we are free to use our Education Fund to help pediatricians and PA and swiftcurrent who were interested in sort of being the point person for child maltreatment work. Okay, so Dr. Juliet Soper who’s the area head for agenda as a pediatrician on the child abuse team with us. She is actively reaching out to pediatricians and wanting to help them get the education they need to do this because the basic pediatric residency is including more and more child maltreatment information but not to the detail that they need. In most provinces. This is a pediatric job, really jobs with family physicians and in fact a nurse practitioner as well who is wonderful in a total ball of fire and energy.
Barb McGrath 14:57
Okay, so help me out with one thing. So. So doctors traditionally, of course, look at the physical. Right? what’s what’s wrong with you? And we don’t spend a lot of time on that. Okay.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 15:12
Timeout, may we look at the whole person’s mental, emotional and physical health of the person. Thank you.
Barb McGrath 15:19
What do you what do you think that has evolved? Right? Like when I go to my family doctor each year now she does ask about my mental health. But five years ago, I had never been asked that question. Now. Maybe she spotted that I needed some mental health support lately or something. But that was a question I
Dr. Sharon Leibel 15:36
Had never been asked before. I do think that the actual education on managing the whole person has evolved. So good family physicians, and remember, I’m old, you know, and oh, that’s not a really haircut. So I didn’t make good decisions. I mean, but family physicians have been doing this for a while. If you if your patients have a comfort level with you, then you you were comfortable saying and how are things going at home? And are things going to work and having someone tell you or burst into tears? Or you’ve been talking to me about this and that, but you know what, I don’t know that there’s a physical cause for all these symptoms, what’s stressing you what’s bothering you? Heck, when I was believing when I was trained, something as simple as, hey, what’s what’s your gender preference for a sexual partner was not something that was ever brought up, it was just something you sort of learned along the way, please do not make the assumption that everyone’s partner is the opposite gender from them. So I do think that the training that medical students get now is far and away ahead of what we were given as far as treating the whole person, a whole lot of us were done a job, and it was probably our patients who beat us into shape.
Barb McGrath 17:10
Yes, exactly. And just, you know, even from a society perspective, what was acceptable 30 years ago, is is not necessarily acceptable anymore. And what was okay to ask, or what is okay to ask now wasn’t okay to ask 30 years ago, right. And so had you asked a patient about sexual preference 30 years ago, like you may have been, you know, in a little bit of trouble yourself as a family physician, where nowadays it’s almost an assumed horrible,
Dr. Sharon Leibel 17:40
But I might have been lied to by the patient who might not have felt comfortable. might not have felt safe. Okay. Yes, my hope after. I mean, I’ve got patients and peers. I mean, I’m into the next generation. I’ve got patients who started with me who, when they were teenagers who have children, and now there was children are having children took on mold. So it’s, it’s a different thing I know of patients say, but you can’t retire. And I’m going really ever because I’m going to be sick now. someday. You will be sad when I’m a 75 year old daughtery. Oh, my goodness, oh, seven, because of the Add when I segue into Alzheimer’s, how would anyone be able to tell the difference? So
Barb McGrath 18:29
So Sure. Let’s talk about breaking this cycle, though. So great. we’re identifying the problem more often. I know, we’re not identifying it all the time, or probably even often enough. But how do we break the cycle? What’s missing for families, education and housing, and employment, to change that in housing and employment? Yep. Great conference I went to two years ago, and the stats are proven over and over and over again, that you spent $1 in housing $1 in education.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 19:09
And not that many years down the road, you are saving 10 or $12 in justice, or $12. In health. Wow. Wow. Yeah. Just go back to the basics. patient, housing, employment. Yeah. That’s what’s going to make the difference. Finding the way to help people stay in school, to support them, if their needs are somewhat different than the next person. Having a society that actually looks at every form of employment as opposed to a more American style, free enterprise at all cost and let the strongest survive that leads to an unhealthy society for heaven’s sakes, look cells on the society.
Barb McGrath 20:05
No kidding. You don’t have to live with our right now. One is couchsurfing.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 20:10
Yeah. And if family breaks up,
What are we doing to support the children? And what are we doing to give safety and security to the children who are maybe couchsurfing or passed from relative to relative? Or who are aged out of the system? Yeah, 16 1718 year you are, you’re on your own. You haven’t finished high school, you have no employable skills. hit the streets like that is Bree Dickey Wallace. And that nurse practitioner friend I told you about me is the little witch who got me into this by nominated. He works of her own choice. She works with the group homes for homeless teenagers, she she works child abuse, she works family practice she, she’s the one who absolutely should have been nominated. But I’m not that smart at keeping up with things. But it’s people like her making a difference. Honest to heavens, if we don’t have enough good homes, you know, what? A good group home is better than no,
Barb McGrath 21:25
You know, a roof over your head. And it’s funny that you that you list those three, because quite often, you know, I think my kids have it pretty good. And they’ll complain about things they don’t have. And I think like many parents is like, you got a roof over your head, you’re going to school, and you got food on the table at least three times a day, if not five or six. So like, Don’t even complain to me. Right?
Dr. Sharon Leibel 21:46
But you all have to deal with our adult children.
And think, Okay, can you please rephrase that with want instead of meet
Barb McGrath 21:56
their needs and their wants? Exactly. Yeah. That doesn’t
Dr. Sharon Leibel 22:00
Mean that you need this. Exactly.
Barb McGrath 22:02
We talk about that a lot for her she needed to come and help me say
Dr. Sharon Leibel 22:10
Honey, you gotta come in here before your appointment.
Barb McGrath 22:17
Exactly. I, Sharon, we only have a couple of minutes left. So if there was something that you would like our audience to take away from our discussion today, what would that be? What What is that one nugget? Okay, the one nugget is that even if it’s only handling the retroactive, the problem has already occurred. The duty to report, it stands to every person who has a suspicion or a concern.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 22:50
Even as a medical person, I don’t do the investigation, I don’t have to have certainty. The teacher doesn’t have to have certainty. A neighbor doesn’t have to have certainty. They don’t have to have proof. They have to have concerns. So he reasonable suspicion or reasonable concern fulfills your duty to report. Right?
Barb McGrath 23:13
And how does someone report do I call 911? What do you do?
Dr. Sharon Leibel 23:18
Well, let’s not use the emergency line. The duty to report is to a peace officer or the Ministry of Social Services. So either those are the appropriate person. So rural, it might be the RCMP, or it might be their local social worker, there’s a child care, the child protection intake line, every child protection intake line, and it’s confidential so that if a family is approached, saying someone has a concern, they’re not told who it is. Because literally, there are people saying, Well, I was afraid to report because it’s my neighbor, and he’s kind of violent, or I was afraid to report because it’s a relative, and I don’t want them to know because it would mess things up in the family, etc. Yeah, so it’s certainly easier for the teacher or someone who who perhaps is removed from the family a little bit. But we all have that obligation. Okay, and we’re often having to tell physicians that you know what, somebody’s a grandmother or mother or whoever brushwood Johnson, I am concerned that it’s what there’s no transfer of duty, you don’t get to tell the parent. Okay, you better phone. Right doctor is now medical legally, ethically obligated, exactly through its basic family practice, you are taking care of the interests of your patient. And if that’s not within your scope of expertise, you would refer to a specialist care
Barb McGrath 25:00
Okay, wonderful. Well, thank you. I so appreciate that. It’s hard to believe that time has already passed because we are out of time for today. And so thank you, Sharon, for joining us to talk about something I know is way too prevalent in our society. We never even got to mention the YWCA of Regina awards of women of distinction. There we go as I trip on my tongue, and Sharon is a nominee. Now of course this year the awards have taken on a very new meaning. And I believe they’re looking at a ceremony possibly in the fall. So I certainly wish you luck and hope to see you up on that stage that night.
Dr. Sharon Leibel 25:45
Some of you have been dreading Thank you.
Barb McGrath 25:49
Oh, you’ll do awesome, Sharon. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb at Google girl.ca or reach out on Facebook and Instagram at Above the Fold. ca. Just a reminder, you can even submit questions in advance of our live show on our Facebook page. I’m your host, Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now. Goodbye
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Sharon Leibel is a family physician and Child Abuse Consultant in Regina. A Saskatchewan girl through and through, Saskatchewan is where she completed all of her university and medical training! Despite her humble nature, Sharon has been recognized for her accomplishments through multiple awards and scholarships and graduated with Distinction from the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine in 1983.
Her training and experience in the field of Child Abuse spans more than 30 years and she has been instrumental in creating the first and only Child Maltreatment Team in Saskatchewan. Sharon has been the medical forensic examiner in over 1000 child abuse cases and spent more than 100,000 hours on call for the Child abuse Team.
She has trained and mentored over 20 team members and hundreds of physicians in training, police officers, social workers, nurses, court prosecutors and judges. Sharon actively engages these team members through ongoing educational sessions and committee work.
Although this work is very difficult, she is able to continue day in and day out with a positive attitude and never lose her humanity. Sharon is an advocate and innovator who tirelessly shares her knowledge and passion for children in need.
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